Men who tested positive for coronavirus in Fairbanks circulated in the community while contagious, state says

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital in Fairbanks, Alaska (Wikimedia commons photo)

Two Fairbanks residents have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and the state announced Monday night that the individuals are older men, in stable condition, who are being treated as outpatients and are now self-quarantined.

These cases do not seem to be from community spread.

“Both of these individuals had been traveling in the Lower 48,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a statement Monday night.

Follow our continuing coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska

Alaska’s chief medical officer, Anne Zink, said the men are unrelated and there is no link between them. She said they were back in Alaska for some time, circulating in the community while they were contagious, and the state is trying to identify where they went and with whom they had contact.

They’re the second and third known cases of coronavirus in Alaska. The first was announced Thursday and tied to Anchorage. The patient was a cargo pilot who had recently arrived in the city.

Related: Alaska’s first known coronavirus patient arrived on a cargo flight and went to an ER in Anchorage, state officials say

Dr. Zink said individuals known to have been in contact with the infected people will be notified, and the state will let the community know which locations the patients visited.

State Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said the situation underscores the importance of vigilance after returning to the state from travel Outside.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital officials say they have been preparing for a coronavirus outbreak since January. Quality Medical Director Angelique Ramirez said the hospital has activated a coronavirus hotline: 907-458-2888.

Patient treatment is based on severity of symptoms, regardless of whether a person has been tested for COVID-19, Dr. Ramirez said. She said the local testing capacity is still limited, though the hospital hopes to stand up a drive-through testing facility by the end of the week.

More than 300 Alaska samples had been tested for coronavirus as of late Monday,
including the two Fairbanks positives and another positive last week in Anchorage.

“Even as we expect more cases in Alaska, we must remember each case is a person diagnosed with COVID-19,” Zink said in the statement.

She encouraged Alaskans to show compassion for patients and the community, and issued a reminder that residents returning to Alaska from other countries and other states should practice varying degrees of isolation to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Alaska Public Media’s Tegan Hanlon and Julia O’Malley contributed to this story.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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